|A scene from Speed, the new play be Iman Qureshi|
Produced by Kali Theatre, who develop thrilling new plays by women writers of a South Asian background - National Theatre, are you listening? Women's work is to be showcased, not aggressively ignored - Speed was originally part of the 2013 Talkback Festival,. No surprise to discover that Speed combines the topicality, wit and political freshness of its author.
|Another scene from Speed|
It's a bittersweet comedy set at a speed dating event, and deals with deeper issues of race, sexuality, class and gender. Speed was born of my experience of leaving the safe, artificial confines of university and moving out into the real world. Suddenly all the theories I read about – class privilege, male privilege, white privilege, heterosexual privilege – became actual, lived struggles.
My naive bubble of belief that women can do anything men can do, deflated with every cat call, every tired cliche about lifting the veil and every statistic and experience which indicated the existence of a glass ceiling. It slowly became quite apparent that who you knew meant everything. What you knew meant very little. My hope that racial equality had been achieved was promptly destroyed when it was once suggested that my name was too unusual to sign off with when sending out emails to strangers.
Speed is a play of people railing against the cages that society constructs for them. Whether it’s an intelligent woman exhausted by a world which reduces her to an object, or a person who rejects the gender role they are assigned at birth, or someone whose heritage leaves deep scars upon their sense of self worth, the characters in Speed are united by the common struggle of identity in a world which loves to box people in.
Speed dating seemed to be the perfect mechanism to tell these stories. What is less reductive that five minutes to sell yourself to a prospective partner? Five minutes to decide whether to invest in the stranger sitting across from you when all you have is essentially a CV - age, job, hobbies, religion. Speed dating is also a microcosm of a world where love is just another commodity. Where finding a partner becomes yet another box to tick on our ‘To Do’ list of life. Where real human connections often lose out to the pursuit of contrived fairy tale endings.
I was also eager to give brown people the dignity of being represented without tired cliches or cultural stereotypes. Speed, I hope, is light years apart from narratives of extremism or arranged marriage. It is a play about Asians not thinking of themselves as Asian and of their place in modern Britain, but rather thinking of themselves as people.
Speed will be on at the Tristan Bates Theatre in Covent Garden from Tuesday 25th February until Saturday 8th March 2014 . Click here to book.